Another installment of 100 words for today. This obviously follows the chapter posted earlier today, and comes before The Sunken City.
SHIELD: THE PAST
The child ducked as a shell of some sort sailed over his head. He looked toward the direction it had come for his prey, but he saw only a murky cloud of silt.
Anything could hide in that cloud, he thought as he advanced warily.
He swam low to the ground, his chest scraping the sea floor. He navigated around the cloud as it settled and calculated the location of his target. This game was so simplistic; he barely had to put forth any effort. It was the only game he could find today. And he would not spend his last day as a child in solemn contemplation or whatever else it was the other children did.
His parents may have wanted him to follow their path as a Farmer, but the child felt the call of the Shield. As the son of Farmers, he would’ve had an advantage over his peers. It was a rare gift for two Farmers to mate, and to find the time to procreate… The boy shook his head and marveled at his prominent parents.
The silt had settled enough that he saw smooth translucent skin. The other boy was facing away from him, anticipating a frontal assault. The boy sneered and identified a spot on the back of his prey’s head where the skull met the neck. A well-timed throw of a rock…
The other boy spun and glared.
“Damn it,” the hunter cursed. In his excitement, he had projected his plans to anyone who cared to listen.
As the two boys closed the distance between them, the prey’s emotions became erratic. The hunter’s prowess, even at the age of thirteen, was more than enough to win this display of strength. They grappled for a few moments until the hunter in a decisive move, captured his prey in a headlock.
The prey flailed his arms and tried to escape, but it was futile, the hunter had won.
“You’re out,” whispered the hunter.
The prey flung his head back and made contact with the hunter’s nose. Pain radiated through his face and clouded his vision. The hunter scowled and readjusted his grip on his prey to cover one of his gills.
“Do you yield?” inquired the hunter.
“Never,” hissed the prey.
The hunter shifted his grip once again, this time both of his prey’s gills were covered. The flailing increased as desperation set in.
“Yield, and I will release you,” shouted the hunter.
The prey refused, and the hunter knew this game had only one outcome…
The hunter released his grip and the prey kicked him in the chest before swimming away. The impact forced the hunter’s vestigial lung to exhale his entire supply of oxygen. A torrent of bubbles escaped as the hunter’s gills worked overtime to replenish his oxygen levels.
As he floated, prone, he became aware of amusement. Amusement at his expense! He turned toward the interloper, but froze when his eyes focused.
Floating with his feet “up” was the Don of the Shield. A scar started at his jaw, crossed his gill and continued over his shoulder and terminated in the center of his chest. Although the Don’s skin was marred with pocks and lesser scars, it was obvious there was at least one rib missing. The Don’s barreled chest seemed to be as wide as the hunter was tall. Green ink on his abdomen featured tattoos forming places and dates in ancient script.
The hunter marveled at the elaborate ink and cringed at the thought of working the seaweed dye and pricking each dot with a spine from a puffer fish. No one could mistake the Don of Shields.
“Prey and go hunt?” The Don asked. “Rather elementary for you, is it not?”
The hunter matched the orientation of the Don to convey respect. “Children’s games prepare me for the future.”
The Don laughed. “I doubt you’ll grapple much kelp, Child.”
“I’ll not follow my parent’s path.”
“So what,” the Don retorted, “you wish to be Shield?”
The hunter set his jaw and nodded once.
“Then greet me in the proper way, Child.” The contempt loaded into the single word spurned the hunter to action.
He advanced on the Don, keeping an eye on the spear he held. He wouldn’t use that on me? he thought, warily.
“A Shield uses anything at his disposal to defeat his enemy!” bellowed the Don, brandishing the spear.
The hunter knocked the spear away and rolled along its shaft to get close to the Don. His hands reached for a forearm larger than the hunter’s leg. The Don exhaled a blast of air and propelled himself just out of the hunter’s reach, spinning so his feet floated just above the seabed.
“You’ll need to do better than that, Child.”
The hunter scooped up a handful of silt and flung it at the Don. As it expanded, the hunter thrust himself forward with all his might, eyes closed, and arms outstretched, reaching for the target he knew was dead ahead.
His head impacted the Don’s chest, but all his momentum jarred his shoulders, and he felt it through out his body. His molars ground and he opened his eyes to see the Don’s feet disappear below the silt.
“You’ve got to think different if you want to be a Shield!” The Don thrust his elbow into the hunter’s back and drove him into the soft sand. “Do you yield?”
“Yes,” the hunter replied.
“Wrong answer!” bellowed the Don as he freed a foot and kicked the hunter in the ribs.
The hunter moaned, and the Don bellowed again. “Do you yield?”
“No!” screamed the hunter.
“Wrong again, Child!” The head of the spear barely missed the hunter’s neck gill. The Don leaned over his conquered prey. “The correct answer is ‘never.’”
The hunter, now prey, but really only a child moaned. And pushed himself up by grabbing the spear and twisting it before forcing it into the Don’s foot.
Ignoring the fine red mist, the Don chuckled. “Welcome, Shield,” he declared and pulled the spear from his foot.
Next: The Sunken City